Clare Teal: Some fresh ideas for Easter from across the continent

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Being on diet over the Easter weekend of course meant no chocolate and only the merest slivers of simnel cake (rude not to). I was curious to discover a few of the more unusual Easter customs carried out in other parts of the world.

In Bulgaria, for example, families dye eggs on Maundy Thursday, the first red egg is seen as a symbol of health and good fortune and kept till the following Easter. After the Saturday evening service a huge egg fight takes place or choukane s yaitsa, the person with the last remaining unbroken egg is proclaimed the winner or borak, the winning egg is also kept till the following Easter.

On Easter Monday in Slovakia and the Czech Republic men dig out their pomlázkas or hand made whips formed from eight to 24 willow rods; they then whip or spank women – this apparently can be painful but isn’t intended to cause suffering; it’s merely in order to maintain the woman’s beauty and health for the next 12 months. Personally I’d rather stay unwhipped, ‘ugly’ and eat chocolate. By way of revenge, women are allowed to pour buckets of cold water over any man the next day.

In Hungary, however, Watering Monday or Locsoló Hétfö, involves visiting males sprinkling the womenfolk of the house with perfumed water in exchange for an Easter egg.

Great big fires are the thing in Cyprus. It is customary for eager youngsters to collect scrap wood on which to burn a small doll representing Judas Iscariot. Such is the sense of competition between neighbourhoods, the fire department are often called to put them out.

On Easter morning in Bosnia and Herzegovinia you take a basket of food to church to be blessed, this will usually involve bread, coloured eggs, ham, horseradish and potica, a kind of nut cake. I’m most approving of the basket idea – it sounds right up my street, as does the Jamaican tradition of spicy fruit buns and cheese.

Finally in Norway people partake in the relatively modern tradition of reading and/or watching murder mysteries. Apparently Poirot is a firm favourite and publishers schedule their whodunnits to coincide with Easter. A few ideas there for next Easter.